- Optimization of wind and tidal turbines, including aerodynamics, structures, acoustics and control
- Aerospace and multidisciplinary design optimization (MDO) techniques
- Energy systems modeling work, specifically numerical models to simulate renewable energy in interaction with the grid
- Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs)
- Sustainable energy systems
Mechanical engineer Dr. Curran Crawford specializes in sustainable energy systems, notably, in wind energy.
Dr. Crawford is specifically focusing his research on creating computer models of wind turbines that integrate multidisciplinary techniques. These digital simulations promise to be better predictors of turbine performance, he says, without having to deploy real machines on site for testing.
The goal is to produce more electricity at lower cost, especially with the growing demand for power.
After designing a set of rotor blades for a UK company that builds small wind turbines for individual homes and farms, Dr. Crawford is finding ways to design blades that can withstand fluctuating winds across Canada.
"Although wind turbines look really simple, there's still a lot of innovation involved with designing them," he says.
Each feature of the turbine depends on each other, which means there is more to it than just up-scaling smaller models. Dr. Crawford is searching for new concepts in the aerodynamic shape, structural layout and material science for his blades.
Dr. Crawford and his research team at UVic are working on another big project - designing a smart grid for plug-in electric vehicles that will enable cars to preferentially run on renewable energy when it's available.
When working with students, Dr. Crawford connects theoretical concepts and equations related to turbine performance with real world applications and examples from his research. Engineering students can apply these concepts onto their own paper models in his design courses.
Dr. Crawford holds degrees in BEng (UVic), SM (MIT) and a PhD from Cambridge University, UK.
Dr. Crawford's Faces of UVic Research video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4aagtqd714
UVic EcoCAR website: http://ecocar.uvic.ca/
Dr. Crawford's energy systems work involves faculty from economics, political science and environmental psychology. The intent is to include personal, societal and economic factors in the numerical modeling work to faithfully simulate current and future energy systems.